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Matthew Semisch | | March 23, 2014

Semisch: Clarkson wins more than a team title

HAMDEN, Conn. -- It seems strange to think a university founded in 1896 had never won an NCAA national championship in any sport, but that was the issue Clarkson bore going into Sunday afternoon's Women's Frozen Four title game.

No Golden Knights team had even been involved in a national title game since 1970, in fact, when Clarkson’s men’s hockey team lost to in-state rival Cornell.

On Sunday, though, Clarkson, the university and the Potsdam, N.Y. community at large finally got in its mouth the taste it’d been yearning for for decades.

Potsdam, a town of 17,000 in the far reaches of northern New York, has rallied around their Knights en route to their very first Women’s Frozen Four this week in Hamden, Conn., and Clarkson senior forwards Carly Mercer and Shannon MacAulay were quick after the game to acknowledge the support.

“I think someone mentioned it’s the first national championship Clarkson’s ever had, and you could tell we’ve had great support all year,” Mercer said, “And we continued to have great support this weekend, and we owe a lot to our fans.

“They’re loyal, they’re positive, they’ve stuck behind us through some adversity and things like that, so we owe a lot to them.”

As for the team Clarkson ousted, Minnesota had won the previous two national championships and was looking for a third in a row and fifth NCAA women’s hockey title all time. Not that that was any of the Knights’ concern, though.

“2014 is a completely different year,” Mercer said. “We didn’t care how many national championships [Minnesota] had won -- this was our year.”

MacAulay, who had an assist and the game-winning goal Sunday in Clarkson’s 5-4 win against top-ranked Minnesota, echoed her classmate’s sentiments.

“The support from the fans has been phenomenal and from our families, as well, with them making the trip, and eight hours [driving to Hamden from Potsdam] isn’t short, so it’s just been great,” MacAulay said.

“We had a pep rally on the way out of Potsdam, and I’m thinking we’ll probably get one on the way in. The support’s been fantastic.”

“I think you can ask our president right there (pointing to university president Anthony Collins in one of the seats at Sunday’s postgame press conference at High Point Solutions Arena) what this means to Clarkson University and the North Country in general.

“The girls spoke about it at length about the support that we receive, and it is unbelievable. I don’t think you see many presidents of universities and their wives sitting in the press conference right now, and we had our academic advisors here, and it’s just a close-knit community and they all rallied around the success we’ve had this season.”

This national title isn’t just big to Clarkson, though. This is the first time any NCAA NC women’s ice hockey team from a league other than the Western Collegiate Hockey Association had ever won the national title.

“Someone said at the ECAC banquet -- I think it was one of the girls from Harvard or Cornell -- said that they just hope someone from this league brings it home, and they’re so right,” MacAulay said, referring also to teams from the Knights’ own league.

“We deserve to bring this [national title] home, and our league is just as good as the western league, in my opinion. It looks good on our league and it’s really nice to see an eastern team bringing it back.”